Nvidia “Sampling” DirectX 10 Mobile GPU for Centrino Pro Notebooks

Nvidia Readies Mobile GeForce 8-Series GPU Shortly

by Anton Shilov
11/13/2006 | 02:15 PM

Nvidia Corp., a leading designer of graphics processors and core-logic sets, said it would release mobile graphics processors with the DirectX 10 support for the next-generation Intel Centrino Pro mobile platforms. The company’s chief executive officer said that such chips were already being “sampled” during the most recent quarter conference call.


Intel Centrino Pro mobile platform earlier code-named Santa Rosa is projected to be released early in 2007 and it is also highly-likely that its release timeframe will coincide with the launch of Microsoft Windows Vista operating system, e.g., the 30th of January, 2007.

DirectX 10 Enroute to Notebooks

Santa Rosa notebooks are DirectX 10 notebooks. They are Vista, DX10, Blu-ray disk, high-definition video notebooks. And we are the only supplier of DX10 GPUs today, and the only one sampling [DirectX 10] notebook GPUs. And my expectation is that we… Our success on the Santa Rosa transition should be quite a bit higher than our success even with Napa,” said Jen Hsun Huang, Nvidia’s president and chief executive officer, during the conference call dedicated for the company’s third quarter fiscal year 2007 results.

Mr. Huang did not specify whether his company was sampling a special version of GeForce 8800 graphics processor for mobile computers, or was testing another GeForce 8-series architecture-based graphics chip specifically designed for laptops.

Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 GTX and 8800 GTS graphics processors are produced using 90nm low-k process technology and contain 681 million of transistors. The GeForce 8800 graphics processing units (GPUs) feature so-called unified shader architecture, where an array of up to 128 arithmetic logic units – which Nvidia calls as stream processors – can be assigned for either vertex, geometry or pixel shaders. The new chips are fully compliant with Microsoft DirectX 10 application programming interface.

Due to the fact that Nvidia has widened memory interface of the new desktop GeForce 8800-series processors to 320-bit and 384-bit from 256-bit on previous-generation products, the chips now have larger footprint and may not be compatible with traditional notebook GPU form-factors. It is likely that the mobile version of the GeForce 8800 – if there is any planned – will feature typical 256-bit memory bus and lower amount of execution units, e.g., 64 stream processors, 16 texture units, 16 raster operation units and so on. It is unclear, however, whether Nvidia plans to create a new chip, or simply disable some logic inside the GeForce 8800.

Windows Vista to Push Centrino Pro, GeForce 8

Intel’s Centrino Pro platform, which was earlier code-named Santa Rosa will primarily add performance improvements as well as some new features to the currently shipping Centrino Duo notebooks. The new mobile platform will feature code-named Intel Core 2 “Merom” processor with 800MHz processor system bus, new core-logic code-named Crestline with advanced built-in graphics core, Intel NAND technology that boosts performance of hard disk drives, code-named Kedron wireless network controller compliant with an 802.11n standard, which will increase bandwidth to up to 600Mb/s, and some other innovations. Instead of BIOS, the new platform will support UEFI, an interface that helps hand off control of the system for the pre-boot environment (i.e.: after the system is powered on, but before the operating system starts) to an operating system, such as Windows or Linux.

While generally the new platform has some features that its predecessors lack, it will not be easy for Intel to explain end-users the benefits of the Centrino Pro, as the new laptops will hardly enable any new usage scenarios, but will simply boost performance. But if Nvidia leaves its DirectX 10 mobile GPUs only for the new mobile platform, the latter may receive more attention from consumers looking forward high performance graphics, gaming and so on. Furthermore, sales of both Centrino Pro components as well as DirectX 10 GPUs will be accelerated by the launch of the new operating system from Microsoft.